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Helene Pavlov, M.D.

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Three Cheers for Jamie Oliver

Posted: 07/06/10 03:15 PM ET

While watching episodes of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution I was reminded of a post that I wrote last summer. It was about the role of parents teaching their children how to eat healthier. I am fascinated and applaud Jamie Oliver for his efforts to bring attention to what we are eating and trying to change what school children eat.

A Time Magazine article quotes weight-control specialist Dr. Howard Shapiro. "Kids at the age of 12 are getting adult-onset diabetes." What does not surprise me is that this problem goes beyond the food. One of the issues is the cost to keep kids healthy. Processed foods are cheaper to buy and prepare than healthier alternatives. School boards look at the bottom line, make their decisions fiscally and not always based on proper nutrition. A typical argument in support of this decision is that, "the children won't eat the (healthy) foods and it will just get thrown out." That argument may actually be true but a combination of education and appropriate peer pressure, combined with those foods that are accessible can change taste expectations. It is easy to get used to not having salty food. Actually, after a short while of eating foods without salt, salty foods taste "too" salty. Change what is available and taste expectations and the need for salty and sweet foods would change with time.

Fiscally driven decisions also apply to physical education. A number of my friends and family have children whose PE classes have been greatly reduced or cut entirely because of stripped budgets. Remember, good health not only includes good nutrition, but also exercise. The sedentary lifestyle wreaks havoc on the body and can encourage unhealthy eating habits.

Why do we continue to send our children down these unhealthy paths? Why do we opt for short term fiscal decisions that will ultimately affect costs in much greater ways in the long run? Prevention, and being proactive, is a much healthier choice than relying on a healthcare system, our doctors, available drugs, and/or surgery to undo years of damage.

Years ago, the number of people who smoked was very high because every movie star smoked and TV commercials explained, in detail, all the benefits and how great you felt when smoking their brand of cigarettes. TV commercials today promote processed foods and the increased convenience of a bag of chips versus fresh scraped carrots or washed strawberries. Actually, you rarely see the fresh food alternatives in TV commercials or ads except from general food store delivery sources.

At the end of the day it rests on the shoulders of each and every parent. Kids learn from what they see and what the parent does and it's more than what the parent says. If they see you consuming bags of chips, ice cream and sodas and opting for the couch rather than the treadmill or a walk, they will do the same. We should embrace Jamie Oliver's efforts and similarly do something for our children's future. Remember our children are the future. Do we want America to be fat and lazy or fit and lean? Lifestyle choices are important. If a child does not get a healthy start, they may have to fight psychological and physical challenges for their entire lives. Parents need to get their own act together. Just as with smoking or going green, bad habits can be changed, and new healthier habits and lifestyles can become the norm and a natural part of their choices. Healthy foods increase the chance for a strong mind and body, and a brighter future.

HSS